Returning to the workplace and the importance of work-life separation.

Aaron Petersen, CoBox Founder

Having a work life balance is important, there’s no two ways about it. A good work-life balance allows you to manage the demands of your work life while also allowing a healthy portion of time for yourself and your family. Your happiness and wellbeing are most important, and you can prioritise them by making time for things you enjoy away from work. Achieving this healthy work-life balance has many benefits, such as managed stress levels, more job satisfaction, better physical and mental health, and overall higher productivity. Of course, you already know all this. Anyone who’s worked for a few years can attest to the feeling of wanting (or having) a clear boundary between work and personal life.
Recent years, however, saw the physical separation of work-home barriers be eliminated out of necessity with the advent of work-from-home (WFH) during the pandemic lockdowns. Zoom Meetings and Teams Calls were conveniently conducted from living rooms and kitchen islands, and the DIY home office became the norm, no matter how cramped the space. Work and home were no longer mutually exclusive, and professional life was forcefully positioned into our home sanctuary. This was circumstantially required at the time, and it worked to enable businesses, services, and people to pivot through the rough patch.

Some adapted well and thrived in their home environments while others struggled with this practice and faced challenges. When work and personal life converge and share the same physical space, it is inevitable that they also impact us mentally. For many, the association of the workplace-being-the-workplace and home-being-the-home faded as a result, and so did the ability to ‘switch off’ and relax. The term after-hours phased out with late night urgent deadlines. Finding that healthy separation was the new challenge when your office became your living room with a close of the laptop.

This is why I encouraged the return-to-work movement very early on. It was not to disrupt people’s day-to-day or uphold commercial property value, but to rebuild the healthy physical distance between personal and work life. Now that we stand at the tail-end of the pandemic and mandated lockdowns, I believe it is time to reintroduce the separation and reinstate your home as your sanctuary.
However, I recognise that the popular strengths of WFH lifestyle, and inversely the criticisms of on-site work, need to be taken as lessons to transform the office experience. I understand that the ability to WFH allowed people a sense of safety, freedom, and renewed connection to their family and home-life. That feeling, and the positive aspects of it, should not be disregarded. It is clear this increases people’s wellbeing and outlook on their jobs. Business owners and management need to therefore look at their policies and workplace, and transform them for the better so that it meets those needs. This is an opportunity to create a safer, supportive, and more flexible workplace that encourages a return of the masses, and not just enforces it.
The transition of Return-to-Work policy itself requires gentle tact and transparency. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, one-third of respondents reported negative mental health impacts upon returning to work, while almost half of those who have not yet returned anticipate similar challenges. These findings highlight the importance of addressing employees’ concerns and providing support throughout the transition process. This doesn’t mean a complicated process. It means having the ability to listen and respond to your employees, and to show them that you care.
At CoBox, our Return-to-Work policy has seen the team back into our studio 5 days a week. Our studio was given a makeover, introducing new break out areas to offer time away from the desk and introduce more home-like comforts. Management has introduced an open communication channel giving the team an option to WFH when they have appointments, car issues, kid dramas, or if S*%t happens! Allowing the flexibility of staff to WFH in these situations ensures that people have the safety net when needed, and we can keep the team operating with understanding and empathy. Having this option available maintains WFH as a tool for us to use, while keeping the physical separation of work and home.
Thankfully, the comfort of our cherished studio has made the return-to-work movement much easier. The CoBox studio is based in the sunny leafy suburb of Redfern, and boasts stunning views of the Sydney city skyline at a distance. The atmosphere of the area is warm, green and inviting. Positioned away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the studio is a haven away from the ‘rat race’.
The studio is the perfect setting for workplace socialising with vibrant colours, plants, and plenty of natural light to keep spirits high. We’ve also become pet-friendly, and regularly have our resident canine chief of morale, Olive, on duty for stress-relieving play if needed.

The result of all of this, is that CoBox is a workplace that invites rather than deters. It is not the bleak, dark and stressful cube on the other side of the home-work pendulum, but a bright and comfortable setting to get creative and collaborative in. We’ve introduced more hot desks into our studio now offering 10 large desks to like-minded creatives or small businesses who want to start the transition back into a creative studio

The combination of an understanding Return-to-Work policy and a friendly, inviting setting helps ease the concerns around leaving WFH, while also re-building a work-life physical separation that encourages balance, wellbeing, and overall happiness. I welcome other business owners and management to consider a similar approach. Make resolving the WFH tension a transformative process that improves workplace experience and personal lives for the better. Let’s not get involved in the tug and pull of returning to the old or staying in the present. Let’s listen and learn from the last few years, and move forward to a stronger future, together.
Looking to take the Return-to-Work leap? For freelancers or small business professionals who are looking for a comfortable and work conducive space, the CoBox office has hot desks available. Along with hot desks, we have meeting rooms, edit suites, a voiceover booth, and a range of amenities.
Contact our production team here to find out more.